What is the Meaning of the Phrase “Not I Said the Cat”

What is the Meaning of the Phrase

What is the Meaning of the Phrase “Not I Said the Cat”

“Not I said the cat.” is a common catchphrase often used for humor or in the comment sections of online newspapers. The phrase is usually used to make fun of online commenters or newsreaders who are either uninformed or are making a giant logical leap in their argument. 

The quote “Not I said the cat” is a variation of the famous quotation “The cat said “meow.” “Meow” means “I am a cat.” “I am a cat” means “meow.” This is a variation of the Pyrrhonism, or the skeptical version is not, I said the cat. The answer is always that I did not say it.

Grammatical look

There are several ideas about where and how this phrase came from. In some forms, it says: The cat said, ‘Not I’; in others, the cat said, not I. It is commonly used to correct someone who has made a mistake or spoken out of turn. One idea is that a grammar error was spotted and corrected by saying, not I. The most popular belief on its origin comes from a poem written by Lewis Carroll called Jabberwocky. In Chapter 1 of Alice Through The Looking Glass, several lines seem nonsensical but make sense if read aloud with a sing-song voice.

Some Fun Facts About Not I Said The Cat

Its origins may be lost in antiquity, but it’s probably safe to say that a pun was never so widespread. The internet has not only made Not I Said The Cat more popular than ever before, but it also sparked new variations on it. Today, you can find Not I! Said The Asteroid, and even Not I! Said The Amoeba.

But why do people love it so much? What is it about a bad pun that makes people laugh? There are many theories on comedy (and even comedy theories), but one thing seems clear: timing and context matter. If you can say something ridiculous at just the right moment, your audience will eat it up.

Whether or not they know exactly what they’re laughing at doesn’t matter as long as they have fun doing it. That might explain why Not I Said The Cat isn’t nearly as funny when typed out as when spoken aloud. It’s all about timing—and some things work better when delivered live rather than read off a screen. So remember: If you want to make someone laugh with a bad joke, try saying it with a straight face—or else don’t bother saying anything at all. Consider leaving them supposed to hang out until they find out what’s going on.

Why do we still say it?

The phrase Not I! traces its origins to Shakespeare, who included it in his play, Julius Caesar. But, per the Oxford Dictionary of Phrases and Fable, a few more scholars think Caesar’s character, Brutus, thinks those lines, while others believe Cassius does; others insist Cassius says them. Either way, Shakespearian scholar G. B.

Evans says that there are two possible interpretations:

  • First, it may be a mere outburst indicating surprise at hearing Cicero name Brutus as a conspirator against Caesar.
  • Second, Cassius may be denying knowledge of any part in the conspiracy—in other words: Not I! I didn’t do it! (This interpretation may have been derived from an ancient Greek version of Caesar’s assassination.)

Whatever its origin, Not I! has been used for centuries by many different people and groups to express either surprise or denial. In more recent times, however, it has become associated with one particular group: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). As AA members repeat their Twelve Steps toward sobriety, they often say Not I! when naming each step.

For example 

Step 1: We admitted that we had no control over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Became convinced that a Power greater than ourselves could bring us back to sanity.

Step 3: Decided to entrust our will and lives to God as we understood Him.

Understanding the phrase

A key to understanding any good saying or proverb is considering its origins and how it developed over time. 

There are many variations on Not I said the cat, including Not me, Tom, and Not me, says John. But no matter what you say after it (or even if you say it).

There are two things we know for sure about Not I

  • First, whatever comes next will never happen;
  • Second, whoever says it will always be wrong!

And that makes us wonder. Why would anyone ever say something so foolish? Perhaps they were trying to avoid taking responsibility for their actions? Or maybe they were trying to look clever by using an adage? Whatever their reason, we hope they learned from their mistake.

Examples in Everyday Life

This expression can be used when you are asked to give an example. Still, instead, you think of examples that demonstrate a different point. Often, we say, Not I; someone else to avoid responsibility or blame. In other cases, it may be helpful to emphasize a point by stating it several times. 

However, when your proposition is illogical, you should consider what individuals say, so there is no way to back it up. And since you can use not I both as an adverb and as a pronoun (i.e., not me), who knows what other surprises await us? So be sure not to miss out on them!


The phrase, as mentioned above, was widely circulated during Dvorak’s time. Walt Whitman famously used it in his book Leaves of Grass (published in 1855), but scholars are still unsure why he chose to use it.

Many people believe that he used it simply because it made sense to him in context. Others believe that there was a secret message hidden within its letters. They think they can solve anagrams or find hidden meanings between different words on each line. Some have even pointed out specific mathematical trends within its text, though those theories are disputed.